Cracking the code: How to teach computer programming in schools

There is growing support for teaching coding in classrooms.

There is growing support for teaching coding in classrooms.

Code is the life force of computers: games, websites, that pretty desktop background and everything else that you see when you’re checking your email or surfing the web. But even though we all rely on software, there aren’t many people learning to code. By 2020, it’s predicted that there will be one million more jobs than computer science students.

We wrote recently about how important it is for students to learn how to code, and about how Code.org is advocating for the teaching of programming in schools.

Well, people are starting to take notice of how a little technical know-how has a lot of benefits. Code.org’s awareness campaign video – featuring Facebook‘s founder Mark Zuckerberg, Will.i.am, Bill Gates and others – was released on February 26 and already has more than 9.9 million views! As the need for teaching coding grows, instructors are asking how to get their kids started with coding lessons on classroom computers.

Teaching coding in schools
There are actually a ton of resources to help teachers design a coding curriculum. One programming instructor, Sheena Vaidyanathan, recommended a few places for K-12 teachers to start – even if they don’t have a programming background.

For their first project, she likes to teach students how to use Logo. Logo Programming Language was designed to help people learn how to code. One of the most popular Logo environments involves a turtle which can be directed to move around by typing commands. She has also used the ACS Logo on Macs, MIT’s Scratch and Tynker.

“In each case, my students were caught up with their first coding experience, giving commands to draw patterns on the screen,” she said.

Code.org also lists a few other platforms that can be used to teach kids:

  • Alice: A 3D programming environment where kids can create an animation to use with a story, game or video.
  • Kodu: Lets kids create games on a PC or XBox using a simple visual programming language. This can also teach creativity, problem-solving and storytelling.
  • Scratch: This is a programming language that makes it simple to create interactive stories, animations, games, music and art. Kids can share their creations on the web.

The organization also recommends a few ways for teachers to design coding classes and start afterschool programs. Globaloria teaches computer programming through game design, while Google’s CS4HS helps teachers incorporate computer science into their K – 12 classes.

Do you think it’s important for kids to learn coding? Please share your thoughts below!

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.